Sophocles’ Explosive ELECTRA Launches Villanova’s 2016-2017 Season

by Patricia Bradford

VILLANOVA, PA – Villanova Theatre is proud to present Frank McGuinness’ gripping and suspenseful adaptation of Sophocles’ classic tragedy, ELECTRA, directed by Rev. David Cregan, OSA, PhD, and on stage September 20-October 2, 2016. Cregan’s visionary new production promises a story that is as old as time and as shocking as today’s headlines.

Following the murder of her father at the hands of her mother, Electra lives in exile gripped by a furious desire to avenge his death. When her brother, Orestes, returns to claim the throne as its rightful heir, a tragedy of sacrifice, betrayal, and assassination ignites the stage in this action-packed re-telling of the ancient Greek drama. As Electra’s rage explodes without mercy, we are propelled to the play’s bitter and bloody conclusion. The New York Times calls this fast and furious adaptation by McGuinness “soul-satisfying drama at its most passionately, intensely alive.”

According to director Cregan, “ELECTRA, unlike many other Greek tragedies, bears the name of its female heroine in its title. I am fascinated that Sophocles shows us this ancient story from a perspective we’ve never heard before. As her own protagonist, Electra is able to articulate her story without being subject to men. I am fascinated by what power and agency looks like for women who are trapped in a patriarchal system. I think the gender dynamics of the play are completely relevant to the world we find ourselves in today. More importantly, I am captivated by Electra in terms of political activism. Ultimately the play asks us, do we submit to the powers that be or do we raise our voices tirelessly in the name of justice?”

Filled with political intrigue, civil war, unexpected humor, and crippling sorrow, McGuinness’ adaptation of this ancient tragedy is as lurid and fascinating as a modern-day tabloid crime story. Set in a time without boundaries or rules, Electra’s rage unfurls across the stage, with the lines between past and present continually blurred. The agonizing tale of the House of Atreus reveals one of history’s most dysfunctional families. Electra’s obsessive rage is unhinged by her mother, Clytemnestra, confused by her reluctant sister, Chrysothemis, and reinforced by her long-lost brother, Orestes. This complex family dynamic shapes the course of the play in profound and powerful ways. McGuinness, widely regarded as the greatest contemporary translator of Greek drama, loves “the passion and precision of [the Ancients’] writing. The very best Greek plays waste nothing. There is a raw relentlessness in their plots and a wonderful integrity to their passion.”

Setting the tone for this visceral theatrical experience is the head of Villanova University’s Theatre Department, Rev. David Cregan, OSA, PhD, who is known for awakening theatrical language through dance and movement. Rev. Cregan seeks to create a world that is built through the collision of forces: primal instincts release in graceful poetry, many voices emerge as one through the mesmerizing Chorus, the familiar and strange weave together to form a tapestry of ancestral violence, and as Electra’s fire burns within her, Rev. Cregan wants audiences to see the House of Atreus begin to bleed.

According to Cregan, “Electra, herself, cannot help but live in her darkness. In our society we often try to conceal our own shadows in fear of not being accepted, of exposing our vulnerable humanity to others. I am fascinated by these characters and where they hide both the light and darkness that lives within them. I want to expose each character in honest exploration of their body and psyche, and unleash these timeless figures onstage in a grandiose and epic style that the Ancient Greeks were known for.”

A team of seasoned, imaginative designers join Rev. Cregan in bringing to life the simple and elegant world of this “sleek and hypnotic” play (The New York Times). Three-time Barrymore Award winner Janus Stefanowicz’s costumes evoke both the modern and ancient earthiness of the Greeks. Rajiv Shah’s set design creates an epic open space that drops audiences into a time that floats between both past and present. Lighting Designer Jerold Forsyth and Sound Designer John Stovicek complete this powerful team of artists, to create a landscape of suspense and tension that propels the play to its inevitable conclusion.

Rev. Cregan directs an incredible ensemble who will bring this enthralling cycle of revenge to life. First-year acting scholars Kara Krichman (Electra) and Megan Slater (Clytemnestra) make their debuts at Villanova Theatre alongside first-year graduate students Megan Schumacher (Chorus) and Sisi Wright (Chorus). They will be joined by second-year acting scholars Dan Cullen (Aegisthus) and Chris Monaco (Servant), second-year graduate students Laura Barron (Chorus), Mike Franz (Pylades), Patrick McAndrew (Orestes), Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez (Chrysothemis), Kasey Phillips (Chorus), and Lexi Schreiber (Chorus), and part-time graduate student Kelly McAnally (Chorus).

ELECTRA runs at Villanova Theatre from September 20th- October 2nd, 2016. Speaker’s Night, immediately following the performance on Thursday, September 29th, will feature commentary from Villanova University Performance Studies professor Dr. Heidi Rose (see full biographical information below). Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in Vasey Hall (at Lancaster & Ithan Aves.). Performances will be held Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students, M.A. in Theatre alumni, and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12 -5 p.m.) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online at

Rev. David Cregan, O.S.A is Chair of the Theatre Department and an Associate Professor at Villanova where he also teaches in the English Department. Rev. Cregan received his Ph.D. in Drama Studies at the Samuel Beckett School of Drama at Trinity College Dublin. Before joining the Augustinians he spent four years in New York City working as a professional actor, where he performed in three tours (one in Europe), an off-Broadway production with the Light Opera of Manhattan, and various regional work around the country. Since returning to Villanova in 2004, he has appeared twice on stage: in Parade (2004) and Cabaret (2009). In 2009, Rev. Cregan appeared in London in A Tale of Two Cities, which subsequently aired on PBS. During his time on campus, Rev. Cregan has directed Everyman, Salomé, Woman and Scarecrow, Three Days of Rain, Uncommon Women and Others, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Dead Man Walking, Godspell, and Murder in the Cathedral.

Frank McGuinness was born in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. He now lives in Dublin and lectures in English at University College Dublin. His plays include: The Factory Girls (Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 1982), Baglady (Abbey, 1985), Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Abbey, 1985; Hampstead Theatre, London, 1986), Innocence (Gate Theatre, Dublin, 1986), Carthaginians (Abbey, 1988; Hampstead, 1989), Mary and Lizzie (RSC, 1989), The Bread Man (Gate, 1991), Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Hampstead, West End and Broadway, 1992), The Bird Sanctuary (Abbey, 1994), Mutabilitie (NT, 1997), Dolly West’s Kitchen (Abbey, 1999; Old Vic, 2000), Gates of Gold (Gate, 2002), Speaking Like Magpies (Swan, Stratford, 2005), There Came a Gypsy Riding (Almeida, London, 2007), Greta Garbo Came to Donegal (Tricycle Theatre, London, 2010) and The Match Box (Liverpool Playhouse Studio, 2012).

His widely performed adaptations include Ibsen’s Rosmersholm (1987), Peer Gynt (1988), Hedda Gabler (1994), A Doll’s House (1997), The Lady from the Sea (2008) and John Gabriel Borkman (2010); Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1990) and Uncle Vanya (1995); Lorca’s Yerma (1987); Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (1991) and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1997); Sophocles’ Electra (1998) and Oedipus (2008); Ostrovsky’s The Storm (1998); Strindberg’s Miss Julie (2000); Euripides’ Hecuba (2004) and Helen (2009); Racine’s Phaedra (2006) and Tirso de Molina’s Damned by Despair (2012).

Dr. Heidi Rose is the Director of Graduate Studies in Communication at Villanova University where she also serves as a Professor of Performance Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Communication from Arizona State University. Her scholarly interests include Performance Ethnography, Culture and Identity, ASL Poetics and Deaf Culture, and well as Performance and Advocacy. Dr. Rose has countless publications on theater and how it relates to the body, and she received her undergraduate degree in Theatre from Emerson College. She is looking forward to joining Villanova Theatre for this exciting show and talk-back.

Villanova Theatre is a community of artist-scholars committed to transforming hearts and minds through the visionary production of classical, modern, and contemporary dramatic literature. Our work is fueled by the imaginative striving common to Villanova’s accomplished faculty, versatile staff, and energetic graduate students. Together, we are devoted to creating a vibrant theatre enriched by and overflowing with the ideas explored in our classrooms. In all of our endeavors, we aim to share the dynamic experience of collaborative learning with our audiences in order to engage the intellect and stir the soul. As a facet of Villanova University, Villanova Theatre serves the campus community as well as thousands of theatre-goers from the Main Line and the Greater Philadelphia area.

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University’s six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.

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Theater/Organization Address: Vasey Hall 800 Lancaster Avenue Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085 (Map It)
Theater/Organization Phone: (610) 519-7474

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